Oaken Grove

August 21, 2009

In my first post Where to begin? I wrote that I expected to go down all sorts of byways before I completed this journey.  Oaken Grove is the first of these byways.  It is also the longest of them for it was my father’s life’s work.

Oaken Grove is a small wood just off the Henley to Marlow road near the River Thames at Fawley.  My father often cycled to this area with friends before the War, frequently camping by the river at nearby Temple or Hurley.  It was an almost idyllic Three Men in a Boat sort of existence — indeed this stretch of the Thames wouldn’t have changed since Jerome Jerome wrote about  not that many years before.  I am quite sure these were the happiest days of my father’s life.

As teenager he had come across a large heronry at Oaken Grove and had gained permission from the local landowner to count and ring the herons each spring.  To make a very long story short, he was still counting the herons at Oaken Grove well into his eighties when he finally wrote a monograph on what was no longer simply an annual bird census but a sixty year natural history of the wood.

I will come back to this is future posts.  The main point for the moment is that there are frequent references to Oaken Grove in the notes.  Indeed, they contain several drafts of the monograph that would not be completed for another fifty years.  No doubt these were exercises in mental discipline.  But they were also, surely, an attempt to hang on to a world that meant so much to him.

Jack Spittle and friend camping near Hurley

on the River Thames during the early 1930s.

Cover of Oaken Grove, Fawley Buckinghamshire:

An Account of Part of its Natural History,

Particularly its Heronry, 1997

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